To observe, enjoy and create in everyday life

Life School

Over the last number of years, our family has had a number of days we've labeled "Life School." These are times set aside with the intention of teaching our boys something that we want to ensure they know before leaving the home. Life School goes beyond doing simple household chores like vacuuming or putting dishes away. Many Life School times are simple, like teaching the boys how to properly iron or fold a shirt. And other nights are what I am not embarrassed to call a "guy" skill snaking the drain in the bathtub. (Yes, maybe I should attend that Life School session. But so far I have not been in attendance... and no one has called me on it.) For the most part, all Life Schools are meant to help the boys be more responsible and self-reliant when they are on their own.

Some Life School nights start with a small skill and build to bigger ones. Cooking would be a good example of this. When the boys were quite young, I taught them how to scramble an egg, cook a package of ramen, or throw together some other simple food item. Now, at sixteen and eighteen, they each plan for and cook a full meal one night a week. I love when they cook dinner for us. Our younger boy, Alex, is quite adventurous in his cooking. Recently he made some fantastic gyros, and around Christmas time he took the time to make a delicious dinner of pork-filled bao. This week Jackson baked a batch of sugar cookies because he thought we needed a tasty cookie to go with our tea. Both boys have discovered that cooking and baking are fun hobbies, and they will be able to feed themselves something beyond a bowl of Top Ramen when they are living on their own.

Teaching the boys how to use various power tools or work beside Brandon in building and remodeling projects over the years has been another set of Life School "classes." In working alongside Brandon, one boy has discovered that while he can use tools, these are not his favorite type of projects. Our other son has learned that he really enjoys working with his hands and seeing a project go from a drawing on paper to a real life, useable object. He is now preparing to study Project Management next year at college. Exposing Jackson and Alex to these types of life skills has opened their eyes to the possibilities (or not) of future careers.

Our most recent Life School sessions have been centered around personal finance. Years ago my husband found Dave Ramsey's radio show while traveling the highways of Montana and Idaho on work trips. Dave Ramsey teaches listeners how to pay down their debts, make a plan for their money, and save for emergencies all with the idea of making a positive change in their families. There are books of his you can purchase or local classes you can attend to learn more about all of this. (this is not a sales pitch...just telling you what we did).

As a young couple following Ramsey's program, it was life changing. Brandon and I adopted many of Ramey's methods and have been consistent with them for almost 20 years now. But where would we be if we had started out debt free? If we began adulthood with no student loans or credit card debt? What if we had an understanding of how money worked, how to budget it, created sinking funds for future purchases instead of charging them and had set up a fund for emergencies? Think of the stress and misunderstandings we could have skipped.

With all of this in mind, our family has been sitting down every Wednesday night for the last couple of months to tackle the lessons in Foundations in Personal Finance: High School Edition. Our goal with these Life School sessions is to help our boys make sound decisions about their money and how they manage it. These are lessons we began to learn in our late twenties, but our boys are learning and applying them as teens. It's exciting to me that they will have this foundation to begin their adult lives. The conversations these lessons have led to have been an added bonus.

The thing about Life School though is that it doesn't have to be limited to kids. Even adults can participate. Is there a life skill you've always wanted to learn, like how to fix a broken appliance, change a car tire, or roast a chicken? Whatever it is, I encourage you to set a goal, find a resource or mentor and do it! We are never too old to learn something new. Taking the time and dedication to learn various life skills may save you money, time, or stress. It will certainly build your confidence. And, who knows, it may be life changing.

So... what would it be for you? What is a Life School session that you would set up for yourself?